During the Arab rule in Malta (870 – 1090), Maltese citizens had limited access to education. The arrival of a number of religious orders in the following centuries brought religious-based education to the island for wealthy families. During the time of the Knights of St John (1530 – 1798). The island saw the establishment of the University of Malta, around which a number of primary, secondary and post-secondary institutions were established.
The language of instruction was Italian but in 1878 it was replaced by English. Education was made compulsory in 1946 in response to a number of children not attending school due to poverty between the First and Second World Wars. The age at which education became compulsory was lowered to five years on 1988.